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Leadership Unleashed: Authenticity with a Purpose

Being authentic and vulnerable can be empowering, but it's impact can be amplified when coupled with a growth mindset.



One of my early career bosses would often start her one-on-one Monday morning meetings with a perspective on her failing marriage like, “What a lousy weekend. My husband and I barely spoke. Either he’s not interested or I’m a terrible communicator. It’s probably both.” While this self-disclosure of vulnerability may have been true, it did little to inspire any of us to reach greater heights or examine our own shortcomings. We just felt she was distracted -- in a big way.

Vulnerability and its corollary authenticity are current hot topics in the leadership development industry. The appeal to showing vulnerability in the workplace is easy to understand; showing vulnerability is being more human and, humans relate better to and trust those who are more human


“The social circuitry of the brain makes a leader’s emotions highly contagious.”

  -- Daniel Goleman


Great leaders have an opportunity and responsibility to share their vulnerable side in a way that helps build a positive growth mindset.  A growth mindset gives people permission to confront their vulnerabilities rather than hide them.  Following are five ways to do that:


1.      Be fearless, but wise about sharing your flaws. While sharing a few vulnerabilities can be extremely liberating to your employees, sharing ALL of your shortcomings can undermine authenticity.  Remember it’s not all about you. There is a big difference between modeling authenticity and trolling for sympathy.

2.      Don’t just share your vulnerability anxieties and walk away. During difficult times or in an emergency, people look to the leader to see how they should behave.  Daniel Goldman offers that “The social circuitry of the brain makes a leader’s emotions highly contagious.” Leaders who share their shortcomings without telling how they are positively acting on them may be doing more harm than good.

3.      Apply a growth mindset to your vulnerability. Share what you think you can get better at doing. Tell your team you are working on it. Then tell them you want them to help you get better. You can remember this as the VWB (Vulnerability – Working – Better) or VW Bug model!

4.      Get comfortable with leading with discomfort. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. As a leader you will likely experience situations where you have no clue about what to do in the moment. Letting people know you need their best thinking shows a level of confidence that far exceeds making up answers that everyone doubts in the first place.

5.      Report back on your progress. You can role model leadership courage and accountability by revisiting the progress on your vulnerable areas. The human tendency is to hope no one remembers an exposed weakness, while leaving it to fester or block progress. You can counter that tendency by keeping the positive progress on your shortcoming front and center.


Using vulnerability as a positive leadership practice is one of the most courageous and effective skills you can develop. Use vulnerability with a positive growth mindset and you will build a culture that helps your team thrive.Welcome to your blog post. Use this space to connect with your readers and potential customers in a way that’s current and interesting. Think of it as an ongoing conversation where you can share updates about business, trends, news, and more.


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© 2019 by Insight for Leadership

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Eric Hicks, Ph.D. 

ICF and BCC Certified Executive and Team Coach

Insight for Leadership

896 S. Crescent Way

Mapleton, Utah  84664

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Tel: 385-325-1776

ehicks@insightforleadership.com

ehicks@ehickscoaching.com